Laid off Chicago Nabisco bakery workers and their union leaders say they aren't done fighting to protect American jobs from being shipped to Mexico. They protested Wednesday outside the bakery and detailed next steps for their Nabisco consumer boycott campaign.
With 277 layoffs taking effect this week at the Nabisco bakery on Chicago's Southwest Side, impacted workers and their allies protested Wednesday morning outside the facility and promised to ramp up their consumer boycott campaign against Nabisco products made in Mexico.
Snack food manufacturing giant Mondelez International owns the Southwest Side Nabisco factory, where 600 jobs are expected to be cut under the company's plan to move some production work to its existing facility is Salinas, Mexico.
The first round of layoffs, announced in mid-January, will impact 277 workers, who are represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International Union.
In response to the layoffs, the union announced plans Wednesday to escalate its "Check the Label" boycott campaign aimed at "encouraging American consumers to reject Nabisco products made in Mexico and instead buy those that are produced in America in support of American jobs."
"By dispatching boycott education teams to inform consumers that every dollar denied to the purchase of these products supports American jobs, we'll send a loud and clear message to the (company) via their balance sheets, effectively making no benefit for Nabisco to run those plants in Mexico," said BCTGM Vice President Jethro Head. "This is not over, and will never be over, as long as this company continues to destroy families and communities by moving work from the United States to these low-wage countries."
LaDonna Degolyer, 57, was laid off today from the Chicago Nabisco bakery, where she has worked in the distribution center for the past six years.
"For us that are, I would say, in the middle or too young to retire and too old to start over, they're taking everything from us," Degolyer told Progress Illinois as tears pooled in her eyes.
Degolyer, who lives on the Southwest Side not far from the Nabisco plant, said she felt "betrayed" by her employer and expressed concern over how she will make ends meet as she looks for another job.
"I haven't had (my daughter) in school this semester because I can't keep up with the payments as it is. My husband lost his job a couple years ago. I'm the sole provider, and I don't even know how I'm gonna keep my house, let alone live. How do you eat? How do you do anything?" she said.
Degolyer had a message for Mondelez.
"Shame on you for taking our jobs out of this country when we're the ones that break our backs so you can make millions of dollars," she said.
Wednesday is also the last day of work at the plant for Leonard Aiello, 57, who worked as a mixer at the Chicago Nabisco bakery for the past four years.
"Today is it. They're gonna take our badges and everything and walk us out," said Aiello, a Lombard resident. "I was hoping to retire from here. That's not gonna happen. I made backup plans. I feel more for some of the young people who just had children or bought a house. They're in a lot of trouble."
The impending offshoring of Chicago Nabisco bakery jobs has gained the attention of presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who met with impacted workers last week.
Many local elected officials have also spoken out over the issue. Among them is Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who was at today's protest.
Garcia and other Cook County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution earlier this month, urging Mondelez to reconsider the layoffs at its Southwest Side Nabisco facility. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced a similar resolution in the Chicago City Council last week.
Regarding BCTGM's next steps in its boycott campaign against Mexican-made Mondelez products, the union said laid off Chicago Nabisco workers will travel in groups across the country to large urban areas "to meet with unions, social organizations, churches, state labor federations, among others, to enhance support for the boycott and continue to expand its coalition."
"Today's layoff of 277 employees from the Nabisco Chicago Bakery should not be seen as the end of the union's effort to save these American jobs, but rather the launch of an intensified effort to educate the American consumer on the transfer of this work from the hardworking employees of Chicago to low-wage jobs at Nabisco's production facility in Salinas Victoria, Mexico," Head said. "We will send teams of these laid off workers to thousands in multiple communities across America to tell their story, redoubling our efforts on their behalf to educate the American consumer regarding the importance of withholding their consumer dollars from the purchase of Nabisco's Mexican-made products."
Check scenes from the protest, including remarks from Head and Garcia:
Last spring, Mondelez announced it would be making an investment in four new state-of-the-art manufacturing lines, either at its existing Chicago bakery or Mexico facility. In July, company officials announced their decision to invest in the Salinas facility.
Had the investment come to the Chicago bakery, four new manufacturing lines would have replaced older, inefficient lines at the plant. That would have negatively impacted headcount at the Chicago Nabisco bakery, Mondelez spokeswoman spokeswoman Laurie Guzzinati said earlier this month.
"We remain committed to the Chicago bakery, which remains an important part of our manufacturing network, continuing to be one of our larger manufacturing sites from an overall headcount perspective, and representing a key site in terms of geographic location, access to distribution and beyond," Guzzinati said in an email to Progress Illinois Wednesday.
"In addition, our company remains committed to the U.S., where we have a significant manufacturing and overall business presence, including (approximately 20,000) employees," she added. "We'd hope that our many loyal consumers would continue to enjoy our beloved, delicious snacks, all which are held to the same high standards of product quality and safety."